Finding My Place (and Peace) in the October Landscape

by Susie Middleton

next-mist_1.jpgThere’s a reason I don’t work in an office any more. It’s called October. Something to do with the sun on my face and the warm breeze at my back as I hike through the swaying grasses and the prickly scrub across the stone-splattered fields behind my house. Up to the spent cornfield I go, watching a thousand geese lift off in unison, honking like so many commuters in Time Square at 5 o’clock. Only it’s not Time Square or I-95 or even somewhere that has stoplights. It’s West Tisbury, where more of my neighbors are sheep than people.

By day, the strange silver light of fall sparkles through the still-green leafy maples and bounces off the crimson spokes of sumac leaves crisscrossing the meadow; by night, the man in the full moon winks, and the lights go on—an inky football field of black sky suddenly punch-holed with bright stars and planets that are mine to gaze at for as long as I like.

Without city lights for miles, the Vineyard sky is unblemished by artificial luminescence. By dawn, I know the October kaleidoscope will shift again, this time turning a firey, blood-red sunrise into a gauzy grey-blue morning where the fog hovers just over the edge of the horizon, leaving you to guess what lies beyond.

next-cosmo_1.jpgIn the garden, I am fascinated by the will to live. Plants are withered and brittle, their leaves brown and dropping, and still they flower and set fruit. Amazing. I gather up all kinds of imperfect vegetables and I love them even more for their struggles.

I know the garden is slowly dying, and I accept that, because I know what spring will bring. And yet we drag the cold frame in and snuggle lettuce seedlings into it—hoping in a way to defy nature and have something fresh in the midst of frost.

There is palpable power in this October landscape, in the beauty, the errant stillness, the juxtaposition of life and death. It’s as if all of the elements of nature have conspired to bring us fully into the present, to be aware and observant and respectful. 

Our job is not to do anything right at this moment but be a part of the place.


  Susie Middleton is the author of Fast, Fresh & Green, a cookbook of delicious vegetable side dishes (Chronicle Books, April 2010). She is the former Editor and current Editor at Large for Fine Cooking magazine. She lives, writes, cooks, and grows vegetables on Martha's Vineyard. Her blog is at <

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